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The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

Joined on May 25, 2008

Last Post on July 23, 2014

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@ February 26, 2013 9:50 AM in The elegance of simplicity has it been lost?

That's exactly what I was talking about....looking at the big picture to see if we really save anything with the super efficient models.

another view....

@ February 25, 2013 10:10 AM in The elegance of simplicity has it been lost?

This is a question I have had for a long time, and have been driving towards a particular answer. 
I believe that a lot of the high tech that gets employed in most industries is used to make inherently poor designs work.  I think we started getting very lazy with our engineering after WW II, it seems and that trend continues today.  It's one of the reasons why I have moved from servicing and installing mostly  hot water heat to nearly all steam.  I've installed and designed plenty of high tech systems and installed high tech boilers.   And now, 7 to 10 years down the road, I am seeing the issues of component failures where parts are hard to find and expensive heat exchanger replacements.  And, I suspect, many of these issues are due to poor quality control, but others are due to not anticipating conditions in the real world ( IE unclean power, generator use during power failures, etc.) or ignoring the impact of these issues.
Let's take a common case in point:  Outdoor reset on hot water systems, especially single zone.   The old high mass radiators inherently provided outdoor reset while just using a simple on/off boiler.  Now, to achieve a similar comfort level with a newer low mass system, we need outdoor reset, modulating burners, and constant circulation.   Yes, a mod con will save gas, but now we draw all sorts of electricity that runs up the electric bill.  And, of course, there is a whole lot more to go wrong, which it usually does, once again increasing costs.   My previous home, when I purchased it, had a great big atmospheric boiler with a single pump and thermostat. Our typical winter electric bills where about $35.  When we sold it, it had a condensing boiler with outdoor reset and, fortunately, a single circulator and, with no one living there, the winter electric bill was $35.  Yes, our gas usage was lower, but electric went up and the boiler required much more ongoing maintenance than the old.  Did we come out ahead?  I did because I could do the maintenance, but if I was paying for it, probably not.
The problem I see here is that a very broad view is not being taken when applying new technologies.  People are not considering the impact of other aspects of the system they are addressing. I believe that in the pre WWII steam heating systems, a much broader view and much greater creativity and understanding was being applied.  I have a huge 8,000 sq ft 1930's home that the bills top out at only $600.00, with virtually no electrical use, almost no insulation and huge leaky windows.  All of our technology today would be hard pressed to match this performance. 
Another big example I see is forced air heating.  In order to address the issues of wide temperature swings, high air leakage from the structure due to the operation of the furnace fan, the industry has had to resort to modulating input and variable speed fans.  Technology is used to cover inherent design flaws of the system.
And the referral to the auto industry is also interesting.  My 2001 Ford Van gets the same mileage as the larger 1974 Dodge I learned to drive in.  An early 80's Honda Civic got 45mpg, while the latest model only gets 35.  Something is very wrong here.
I am certainly not against new technology, but it should only be applied to a good fundamental design  and it can be used to enhance it.

You certainly couldn't get any one better than Gerry

@ January 27, 2013 8:18 AM in Dunkirk question


Here you go

@ January 26, 2013 9:41 PM in Dunkirk question

this is one I did several years ago


@ January 26, 2013 9:13 AM in Dunkirk question

The Dunkirk PWSB essentially has a very small steam chest for water/steam separation within the boiler.  In  addition, the connecting nipples between the sections are only 2 inch, so the larger 2 1/2 inch tapping probably offers little performance benefit because the velocity of the steam moving laterally inside the boiler towards the exits are extremely high.  A good header is probably extremely important on this design in order for efficient, dry steam to be produced.  When these boilers are running, you can hear the water moving up the risers.  Once the boiler runs for awhile and the water line drops, there is a lot more room for steam separation, and the noise goes away.
Also, a tip on installing not follow the instructions for installation of the skimming port.  Installed according to instructions the bottom of the skimmer is below the level of the connecting ports in the boiler, so you only end up skimming the end section.  Bushing the skim opening down to 1 1/4 on the tee, will raise the skimming level up so all the sections will be skimmed.

Bad situation......

@ January 21, 2013 6:31 PM in And the pendulum has swung

seen it before.  I had one like that and I found that a huge plate on the bottom of theold snowman boiler had fallen off.  Combution test showed about 52 % efficiency. Took a block and held the plate in place, sealed up a bunch of other leaks and got the efficiency up to 76%.  Now that the heat was going into the system we had to put the vents back on because steam was getting though to the end radiators.  At least most of the mains were insulated. 
Your boiler didn't have a chance with all that against it!


@ January 21, 2013 8:34 AM in And the pendulum has swung

if they meet heat loss and are two pipe with insulated mains, supply orifices should do the trick with some generous main venting and minimal return line venting.  One pipe gets more challenging....if they have the typical radiator covers at least that drops the radiation capacity by25%.  Big main vents and little adjustable radiator vents is the best.   Also, when getting into multiunits, I find alot of radiators off, so that can help.
Your'e probably on target re: energy training in steam.

The big question is...

@ January 20, 2013 7:02 PM in And the pendulum has swung

did they heat evenly anyway or can they be made to heat evenly?

Not in Chicago.....

@ January 20, 2013 2:53 PM in And the pendulum has swung

Every Weil Mclain LBG I run into I pull the high fire wire(s)  and the system works much better, with the exception of some older models that run at 50% fire on low.  On the Peerless 211's, I run the regulator as low as possible and always improve things.   My running assumption that every steam boiler I see is at least 80% over sized (beyond the 33% Pick up factor) has not failed me yet. 

Need EDR for this Radiator

@ January 18, 2013 10:00 PM in Need EDR for this Radiator

I remember seeing these for the first time about 20 years ago...anyone have steam heating capacity.  They come in various heights and lengths

6 hp

@ January 2, 2013 6:51 PM in thoughts on 1 vs 2 boilers

I bet it's 1/6 hp.  The RE6850 is only 1/7 hp and fires over 1 million btu.  The LNB's have small ECM motors that use about 1/2 teh power of standard motors.

Downfiring not allowed

@ January 1, 2013 10:50 AM in Oversized Boiler?

That amount of down firing is prohibited by Weil Mclain when I have spoken to them about grossly over sized EG/EGH boilers.   I'd say "NO WAY".  They had every opportunity to do it right and are just doing whatever they can to not eat the cost of a mistake.   For me, one of the best gages of the integrity of a company (or individual for that matter) is how they react when they make a mistake.  While they shouldn't happen, they always will as long as human beings are involved.

Yes sir and Mam!

@ December 29, 2012 6:39 PM in Women in Trades

One of the best gas techs for one of our local gas companies was a gal.  Unfortunately she was about the only women I have met in the HVAC trade in 20 years.   Being back in Chicago, however, I expect I will meet more.   I hope we will see a much more balanced future in the trade.  

Keep on, keeping on!


@ December 29, 2012 6:31 PM in US DOE on Balancing and Tuning Single PIpe Steam

I believe it quoted " these systems were built for longivity, not efficiency".  or something to that effect.    There still seems to be the idea that steam is inherently inefficient.   I do agree however, that it is a start.  However, I've found that just completing main vent balancing alone and retuning the boiler to the proper firing rate will save about the same amount as thier study.  I am glad they concluded that the three main improvements need to be studied separately.  As an FYI....probably most or all the boilers in the installations they worked with were grossly oversized gas atmospherics.....the norm here in Chicago.    I found an ocassional power burner in those sized buildings, but they are rare.

My experience in Chicago

@ December 29, 2012 4:46 PM in US DOE on Balancing and Tuning Single PIpe Steam

I just gave the report a quick reading and there are a number of things which are not in step with my observations in Chicago
1) It states only 1 in 10 boilers had incorrect near boiler piping. I have found that about 95% are piped incorrectly
2) No statement is made regarding how oversized the boilers are.  The Least oversized are usually right on.  The typical installation, however, is about 80% oversized based on radiation.
3) It appears they did very little work with main vent balancing.  This is reflected in the huge temperature differences between the hottest and coldest units.   10F difference is unacceptable.
4) The systems are supposed to be balanced before cycle controls are added (according to the control manufacturers).....this was not the case.
5)  They recommend the use of Gorton radiator vents.   These vents on the largest settings will overwhelm the main vents, causing system imbalance.


@ December 27, 2012 7:41 PM in Looking for Peerless SC-8 or SC-9 boilers

The SC comes with multiple gas options. I don't know about the ECT.  I think just about all the larger wetbase boilers come with gas options.  It's the smaller ones that are the challenge.
It seems the Peerless 211 holds up better to welded headers and other poor piping better than the LGB, even though Weil permits welded headers and Peerless does not. 


@ December 26, 2012 9:57 PM in Looking for Peerless SC-8 or SC-9 boilers

These are also referred to as wetbase boilers.  The combustion chamber is completely surrounded by water, except the burner end. 
I work closely with the local Peerless rep and they are some of the best steam people in the country.  But they don't have any, and never stock any, and the factory takes 3 to 4 weeks or more.

Looking for Peerless SC-8 or SC-9 boilers

@ December 26, 2012 7:03 PM in Looking for Peerless SC-8 or SC-9 boilers

Seems there are no wetback type boilers stocked in Chicago except some Weil Mc Lain.  All they sell is atmospheric gas.
I have been able to locate some Burnham V905's in Wisconsin, but no Peerless SC-8 or 9s.
Anybody out there have any?  I have been told 3 to 4 week wait  and I maybe be needing them soon ( I will need 2 if the customer goes this way).

boiler sizing chart

@ December 23, 2012 12:10 AM in Should we not replace the boiler?

there appears to be something ommitted in the sizing chart.....It does not add in the pick up factor for steam.   This is usually 1.33 times the installed radiation.   In other words for steam, the BTU output needs to be 1.33 times the heat output of the radiators, if sizing to conventional standards. 

I'm in Chicago,

@ December 22, 2012 4:44 PM in Trouble in Glencoe

Have the Client give me a call.  I would certainly get rid of that aquastat on the return.  That's backwards, the heat is already on when that pipe finally gets hot, so the system is already working improperly at that point.  The vacuum pump should be on well before the boiler fires. 

Don'thave one....

@ December 21, 2012 11:20 PM in thoughts on 1 vs 2 boilers

yet.  They are on the edge and maybe the orifices will do the trick to get the condensate back faster.

They are replacements for those....

@ December 21, 2012 8:35 PM in Honeywell concentric radiator valve

one of the European makes   Danfoss,  Macon.....makes a single entry hot water valve.
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